Legal studies in a specific area can lead to a career in environmental work, finance or intellectual property rights, among other specialized fields. Read on to learn more about areas of emphasis and degree options, as well as what you might earn as an attorney or legal assistant.
If you're considering a career in the legal system, you might want to pursue a specific area of law. Depending on your interests, you might choose to focus on business, the environment, finance or immigration. Corporate and tax law or criminal justice may also be options.
Specialized law professionals can be employed in private practice or by corporate firms, policy think-tanks and other organizations related to their areas of expertise. For instance, a financial law professional may work in an institution that deals with banking regulations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, annual incomes for lawyers ranged from $55,170 to over $187,199 a year, while paralegals and legal assistants earned between $29,740 and $76,960. Nationwide, employment of attorneys was projected to increase by an average rate of 10% from 2012-2022, with a 17%, or faster-than-average, growth in jobs expected for paralegals and legal assistants (www.bls.gov).
While completion of a certificate or an associate degree program in a law-related area may help you prepare for a career as a legal assistant or paralegal, an undergraduate major in legal studies or a graduate program in the same field of study can help you develop your critical-thinking, research and writing skills. You'll also have the chance to become more familiar with litigation procedures and trial preparation. If you're interested in business law, you might also consider a Bachelor of Business Administration or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Similarly, if you're drawn to international law or criminology, you might pursue a major in global studies or a master's degree in criminal law.
As an aspiring attorney, you'll need to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from a law school that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Admission considerations include how well you do on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Once admitted, your coursework will cover topics in constitutional law and civil procedures, as well as concentrated studies in your area of interest. Before you can practice as an attorney, you'll also have to pass your state's bar exam.